Walkabout: Magnus Dahlander, Architect

Never heard of him, right? Magnus Dahlander may not have been a household name here in Brooklyn, but in his native Sweden, he is still well regarded, as he should be here in Brooklyn.

Dahlander is one of the few architects practicing at the turn of the century, that we know about, who had successful careers both in his native country, and also in America.

He was born Magnus Emil Dahlander on August 2, 1861, in Orebro, Sweden. He received his training in architecture at the University of Technology in Helsinki, and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

He had a successful career in Sweden before coming to the United States. He moved to Brooklyn, and lived here and maintained an office here between 1888 and 1896.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

Photo via Wikipedia

In those short eight years, he designed prolifically throughout the brownstone communities of Stuyvesant Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights North, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights, leaving behind some excellent buildings, including row houses, churches and apartment buildings.

He partnered with two other architects during this time, Frederick B. Langston, (Langston and Dahlander) and fellow Swede, Axel Hedman, (Dahlander and Hedman).

All of Dahlander and Hedman’s work was done in the Prospect Heights section, while Langston and Dahlander buildings are dotted throughout the brownstone neighborhoods.

We don’t really know much about Magnus Dahlander’s life in Brooklyn, although, unlike 98% of the architects featured here, we do have a photograph.

This is due to the extremely large body of work he amassed in Sweden, where he was quite well known and respected. He worked with Axel Hedman and the large Swedish immigrant population to build the Swedish Hospital, which was located at Rogers Avenue and Sterling Place in Crown Heights North.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

Photo via Google Maps

By 1896, there were over 10,000 Swedes in Brooklyn alone, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. He designed several churches for the Swedish community here, as well.

His architectural styles are Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Renaissance Revival, and his row houses represent some of the finest in their neighborhoods.

Among his best is a group on Bainbridge Avenue in Stuyvesant Heights, notable for their eclectic copper clad rooflines, ornamented with gargoyles, embossed patterns and fantastic shapes.

His other houses in Stuyvesant Heights include French Renaissance Revival styles on Decatur, and on his apartment houses on Lewis Ave, near MacDonough. His use of Byzantine leaf trim on his Crown Heights North houses on Dean and Pacific St. is well done, as are the ones on Garfield Place in Park Slope.

The groupings in Prospect Heights, done with Axel Hedman are interesting, as the influences of both men can be seen in their choices of materials and effusive use of carved ornament, which they both must have loved.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

Photo via Google Maps

With only a few exceptions, they designed both sides of the block of Park Place, between Underhill and Washington for developer Willliam Reynolds. Completely different, and in the Romanesque Revival style is a group on Carlton and Bergen, the corner house being the most ornate with a handsome arched doorway on the Bergen side.

He also did a very nice double house on St. Marks Avenue, in Crown Heights North. One of his most noticed buildings is the large, eclectic Romanesque Revival castle of an apartment building on Clinton Avenue, near Fulton, whose tower rises above the rest of the block.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

As more and more neighborhoods are landmarked, specifically in Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, I am sure more Dahlander buildings will come to light.

In 1896, Magnus Dahlander went home to Sweden, where he had a prolific career. He designed a multitude of buildings under the aegis of being the official county architect of several counties, designing homes, churches, army barracks, hospitals, schools and town halls.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

His most famous and enduring work is the Kullen Lighthouse, built in 1898, which can still boast the most powerful lamp of any lighthouse in Scandinavia.

He seems to have retired around World War II, and died in 1951. He only gave Brooklyn eight years, but fortunately, most of his buildings seem to have survived, and are highly prized today, adding to the unique streetscapes that make walking around in our neighborhoods such a peasure. See more on Flickr.

Magnus Dahlander, Architect -- Brooklyn History

[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]

What's Happening